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Review: In Omaha, U2 puts on a show that's immersive, unifying and unlike any other

Review: In Omaha, U2 puts on a show that's immersive, unifying and unlike any other

That was not a concert.

That was an experience.

U2 brought more than 15,000 together Saturday night for a musical journey through two hours of its biggest hits and a healthy sampling of its latest two albums.

A unifying experience, the show was marked by an epic and clever production that put the band — a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame act considered one of the best rock bands ever — nearly everywhere in the arena all at once.

With two stages connected by a long catwalk and an absolutely massive idea screen, part of the show was always playing for you no matter where you were in the arena.

U2 played quite a few songs from that small stage, and Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. made the cavernous CenturyLink Center feel much, much more intimate.

Being in the audience brought a connection to everyone else there even if you were what felt like miles away from one another.

Just take “Elevation.” When the lights went up during the chorus, it seemed every member of the audience was jumping on their feet, shouting the words and throwing their fists in the air.

During “One,” Bono pointed his mic to the crowd, and we all sang the chorus together like old friends singing a favorite at the pub.

During “Pride,” the four members stood in four corners of the arena surrounded by the audience and clanging out the classic song.

In my years, I’ve seen a few hundred arena shows, but I’ve never seen anything like that.

Every moment was crafted to engage, entertain and tell a story, even Bono’s between-song banter. (More on that in a second.) Much like previous U2 tours, it was sensory overload.

Embracing the massive production and new technology could make it feel impersonal, but the way the band played it — being sort of everywhere at once — made it just right.

As is his style, Bono’s dialogue was earnest, perhaps a bit too earnest. He told of a journey at one point and acted as kind of a ringleader crossed with the devil at another. It was a little silly, but the hard-charging songs they played washed that all away.

The experience worked better when he shouted “This is not America” as video of white nationalists and Nazis played across the screen after “Staring at the Sun.” And then when he shouted “This is America” as video of civil rights marches played during “Pride.”

It all came together as U2 closed with a series of unifying songs including “American Soul,” “City of Blinding Lights,” “One” and “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” as the thousands of us gathered there stood and sang with them.

“Wow,” Bono said. “Wow. Wow. Thank you. … Thank you for giving us a great night.”

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Reporter - Entertainment/music/concert

Kevin Coffey is the music critic and entertainment reporter, covering music, movies, video games, comic books and lots more. Follow him on Twitter @owhmusicguy. Phone: 402-444-1557.

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